Objections to Exclusive Psalmody pt 1

Worship 101

I moderate a confessional theological discussion forum on the internet called the Puritanboard.com.  I have been doing it for about 10 years now.

From time to time things really stretch me to have to learn about stuff I think I already know about.  Well, I aint always as smart as I think I am.  Right now we are having a discussion about Singing the Book of Psalms as worship in Church.  Some Churches only sing songs that are from the 150 songs in the book of Psalms from the Bible.  I am a member of one of those Churches.  It is a historical position that has been lost.  Someone asked me for a reason why most people now today do not do that.  I noted that the practice has gone away because of men redefining words, adding unlikely historical context, allowing cultural preference to real facts, and seeking to add things not required and regulated by God in the scriptures.  It may be a difference of eisegesis compared to exegesis, personal feelings covering the truth, an uninspired unregulated addition to things that have been regulated and commanded (the Normative Principle being mistaken for the Regulative Principle of Worship).  That was my answer to this person’s question.

I believe in something called the Regulative Principle of Worship.  What God commands is what should be done.  We shouldn’t add to it or take away from it as Aaron’s sons did in the Old Testament.  I took this off of Wiki-pedia because it was correct, Leviticus 10:1–2 shares this sobering account, stating, “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” (wikipedia)  Jeremiah Burroughs wrote a book by the name ‘Gospel Worship’ which defines the worship God commands and accepts from his people.   If you have a chance it explains the Regulative Principle of Worship in an excellent way.

I want to share another thing.  I posted this during the discussion.

I am not trying to be argumentative. Just informative. This is a hard topic. There is a lot of emotion concerning the topic because it has to do with our affections and desiring to please the God we Love.Look, I understand that emotion. It is hurtful and hard to understand. The first murder took place because God didn’t accept Cain’s offering. That had to do with Worship. This was a hard topic for me to understand and listen to for many years as was the topic concerning pictures of Christ. I understand the frustration. I have no condemnation for anyone here. I just want to help be informative and encouraging.

I have been recommending a book for others to get.  Dr. Dennis Prutow’s book Worship 101 which discusses a lot of these things and is edifying to all despite their position concerning Exclusive Psalmody. There is a lot of ignorance about this topic.  At one time the Church mainly sung the book of Psalms in meter.  That was all they sang.  The Early Church sang the Psalms mostly exclusively.  The early Reformed Church did also.  One reason was that the book of Psalms is made up of Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs.  Those are three distinctions of songs found in the Old Testament book of Psalms.  Paul commanded the Church to sing these songs in Ephesians and Colossians and called them the Word of Christ.  It was what the Hebrew Church Sang.  It was fully what the New Covenant Church sang as it was commanded to.

A wonderful woman, Jeri Tanner, on the Puritanboard posted this.
“Paul uses “Psalms” as the rest of the NT uses it, to refer to the canonical book of Psalms. The word “hymn” in the NT is also used in reference to the canonical book of Psalms: see Matthew 26:30, where Christ and the apostles’ singing of the Hallel Psalms is referred to as “hymning”; and Acts 16:25, where Paul and Silas’s praise in jail is referred to as “hymning.” (There is absolutely no reason to think that Paul and Silas sang anything other than the canonical Psalms.)
Another consideration re: your last sentence: the Hebrew name for the book of Psalms is “Tehilliam,” “praise.” It was “the Book of Praises.” Yes, the church before David always sang the praises of God and they were always and only prophetically inspired songs. The Holy Spirit guided the process of canonizing the final songbook for the church in the book of Tehilliam (or Psalms as the Greek translates it).”

This has been a very confusing situation for many who are first learning of this.  What do we do with our Hymn books?   Aren’t we commanded to sing these Hymns from the Bible?  It is hard for many to hear or learn from.

I made the following plea to those in the discussion.   https://puritanboard.com/threads/singing-uninspired-songs.93520/page-3#post-1141442  Get Denny’s book.  Read it.  It will inform you.  It will encourage you no matter what you think about Exclusive Psalmody.  This book is a book about Worship.  It will cover topics like what Worship is,  why is worship important, and what is the Regulative Principle and why should we care about it.  A small portion of the book is given to answering objections to Singing the book of Psalms Exclusively.  Since that is the topic we are discussing right now I will post that small portion of Dr.Prutow’s book to help others understand things I needed to have answers to as a young man.

Anyways, Here is the first installment to my blog on this topic.  One thing that is found as an objection is We can’t sing about Jesus.  Just be patient and learn if you have the time.



O sing to the LORD a new song, For He has done wonderful things Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth …. ~ PS. 96:1; 98:1


THE OBJECTIONS TO EXCLUSIVE PSALMODY boil down to one basic complaint: The Psalter is insufficient for New Testament praise. When people exclaim, “But I want to sing about Jesus,” they mean, “Psalms are insufficient for my praise.” Some also take the position that the Psalms often speak about the Father, but have little reference to the Son. Others point out that the Psalms themselves teach that believers are to sing new songs, and therefore, instruct them not to confine their singing to those old songs. Then too, who wants to sing about Old Testament Types? It is of course far better to sing about the New Testament realities. There are many Scripture songs outside the Psalter, including hymn fragments imbedded in the New Testament. The presence of these hymn fragments shows that New Testament believers ought to sings songs outside the Psalter.

Add to these objections, the fact that Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 have nothing to do with public corporate worship. Then too, texts like 1 Corinthians 14:15 and 26 speak about newly-inspired songs sung in the New Testament Church.

Professor Scott Sanborn insists exclusive Psalmody is insufficient for New Testament praise. He writes that the mystery of Gentile inclusion in the church, specifically revealed to the Apostle Paul (Eph. 3:4-6), is not present in the Psalms. Dr. Vern Poythress and Dr. Leonard Coppes insist that the regulative principle is fulfilled in Christ along with other aspects of the ceremonial law. Confining praise to the Psalter is, therefore, outmoded and contrary to Scripture. Dr. T. David Gordon goes a step further. The Psalms themselves command believers to sing about all the deeds of God, which presumably includes the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Confining worship song to the Psalter is, therefore, positively sinful to Dr. Gordon.

Each of these objections will be answered, seeking to show that the Psalter is sufficient for New Testament praise. Along the way, it will also be shown that these objections fail to appreciate the real beauty of Psalmody, that is, its subjective element meshed with its eschatology.

This objection means, “I want to sing about Jesus like modern hymns and choruses do.” Of course, the implication is that Psalmody is insufficient. Furthermore, Dr. Leonard Coppes asserts, “The Old Testament psalms focus preeminently on the Father. While it is true that they also speak of the Son, they do not speak of him as pointedly and clearly as does the New Testament.”(1) The response is twofold.

Note how the Apostle Paul speaks about Christ. “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9-11). Paul quotes Isaiah 45:23. In context, Yahweh declares every knee will bow to Him and every tongue will confess Him.

Is it not I, the LORD [Yahweh]? / And there is no other God besides Me, / A righteous God and a Savior; / There is none except Me. / Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; / For I am God, and there is no other. / I have sworn by Myself, / The word hasgone forth from My mouth in righteousness / And will not turn back, / That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance [LXX confess] (Isa. 45:21-23).

From the apostle’s perspective, Jesus is Yahweh; Jesus is Jehovah. He is God Incarnate. Paul brings out this truth with the confession that Jesus Christ is LORD. He also connects Jesus and Jehovah in Romans 10:9 and context, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” He goes on in verse 11, quoting from Isaiah 28:16, “For the Scripture says, ‘WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.’” Paul then quotes Joel 2:32, “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED” (Rom. 10:13). The LORD to whom Paul points in Joel 2:32 is Yahweh. Paul calls his readers to confess that Jesus is Yahweh, that Jesus is Jehovah.

From this perspective, when believers sing, “The Lord is King! Let all the earth be joyful,”(2) they follow the Apostle Paul and make the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. When Christians sing, “The Lord is my Shepherd,”(3) they confess Jesus Christ to be the great and good Shepherd of the sheep (John 10:11, 14, 16). They sing to Him! In doing so, they follow the teaching of the New Testament. They follow the teaching of the Apostle Paul.

Note that the New Testament frequently uses the Psalms to preach Christ. The New Testament quotes the Psalter 82 times.(4) Consider Romans. To accentuate the depth of human depravity in Romans 3, Paul quotes from Psalm 51:4 and Psalm 14:1-3. He adds quotes from Psalms 5:9; 10:7; 36:1; and140:3. In chapter 4, Paul turns to the subject of justification by grace through faith in Christ and quotes Psalm 32:1-2. He also uses Psalm 117 as part of his rationale for preaching the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom. 15:11).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, Psalm 22 is used to present the details of Christ’s crucifixion (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 19:24). Psalm 16 is used to preach His resurrection (Acts 2:24-28, 31; 13:35). Psalm 2 is used to explain the opposition of Rome and Israel to Christ and His Kingdom (Acts 4:25-26). Psalm 110 is used to preach Christ’s ascension and heavenly reign (Acts 2:34-35). Psalm 68 is also used to proclaim Christ’s ascension (Eph. 4:7-8). Psalm 118:26 is used by our Lord to predict His coming again (Matt. 23:39). Hebrews 1 uses Psalms 2:7; 45:6-7; 102:25-27; and 110:1 to present Christ as God and Creator. Hebrews 10 uses Psalm 40:6-8 to present Christ as the once for all sacrifice saving us from our sins.

When believers sing, “Therefore kings now heed this word: Earthly judges, come and hear. Rev’rent worship give the Lord,”(5) they exhort earthly rulers to bow before King Jesus. When Christians sing, “The earth you founded long ago; Your mighty hand the heavens made,”(6) they confess Christ as the Creator (Heb. 1:10). In singing the Psalms, believers do sing about Jesus. The Psalter is quite sufficient for the New Testament age.

Granted, the traditional language of Western hymns is not used in singing the Psalms, nor is the popular language of modern gospel songs and choruses used. The language of Scripture is used, language said to be outmoded and designed for an earlier age. By what standard? A standard designed by those objecting to Psalmody, a standard foreign to Scripture. This objection argues that words “made by an act of human will” are superior to, or at least equal with, words not “made by an act of human will, but [by] men moved by the Holy Spirit [who] spoke from God” (2 Pet. 2:21). Words, it must be added, specifically set forth by the Spirit for singing the public praises of God. On this count, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America stands with the venerable Geerhardus Vos with regard to the Psalms and recognizes that “a more perfect language for communion with God cannot be framed.”(7)

This objection, settling, as it does, on the objective standard of a form of words or language, appears to ignore the subjective principle imbedded so deeply in the language of the Psalms. Vos again rightly states “that the Psalms reflect the experimental religion of the heart, which is unvarying at all times and under all circumstances …(8) The Psalter is, therefore, sufficient for New Testament praise.


Used by permission from Dr. Dennis Prutow



. 1. Leonard J. Coppes, Exclusive Psalmody and Doing God’s Will as It Is Fulfilled in Christ (NP: The Author, n.d.), 23.

  1. The Book of Psalms for Worship (Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant, 2009), 97A.
  2. Ibid., 23D.
  3. The Greek New Testament (Stuttgart: United Bible Societies, 1983), 897-898.
  4. The Book of Psalms for Worship, 2C.
  5. Ibid., 102D.
  6. Geerhardus Vos, “Songs from the Soul,” Grace and Glory (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 1994), 170, italics added.
  7. Ibid., 171.


Prutow, Dennis. Public Worship 101: An Introduction to the Biblical Theology of Worship, the Elements of Worship, Exclusive Psalmody, and A Cappella Psalmody (Kindle Locations 6383-6393). Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary Press. Kindle Edition.


The Love of God



Taken from Mark Jones Chapter 6 Antinomianism.

Thank You for allowing me to post this Mark Jones.  Get this book.  It is so important for our generation to understand these things.  Especially when we have been called legalistic or other vile things tagged to us for loving the Law of God as it is to be understood.







A PARTICULARLY COMPLICATED and emotionally charged aspect of the seventeenth-century debate over antinomianism concerned God’s love for his people. The issue may be stated rather sharply: does God love all of his people identically, or with the same intensity? Reformed and antinomian theologians agree that God does not love all mankind in the same way, otherwise election, predestination, and Christ’s works of impetration would make little sense. The precise issue in view is whether the elect are all loved equally. In other words, does God love us more because of our obedience or less because of our disobedience? During the antinomian controversy in New England, it was considered unsafe to say, “If I be holy, I am never the better accepted by God; if I be unholy, I am never the worse.”(234)  This statement shows that the debate over antinomianism was not simply about whether the moral law should be kept or not. While that particular issue was debated, various related issues also arose, such as whether the holiness of the saints has any influence on God’s love for them.(235) Another related issue was whether God is pleased or displeased with his saints when they obey or disobey his law. How does God’s pleasure or displeasure relate, then, to his love for his people?


The answer to these questions depends on a correct understanding of God’s attributes and affections, as well as—and this is an area that has not received enough attention among theologians—the fact that our relationship to God is in and through Jesus Christ, who is both fully God and fully man in one person. The antinomian view that God sees no sin in the elect means that God could not possibly love his people more or less based on their obedience or disobedience; nor is he displeased with the elect at any time in their life, even before they become believers! But by and large, from the time of the Reformation, Reformed theologians have resisted this type of thinking, and thus have held to the position that in one sense God and Christ love their people equally, and in another sense differently, and thus can be pleased or displeased with the saints.




The idea that God does not see any sin in the justified was a hallmark of antinomian thinking in England during the seventeenth century, especially in the 1630s and 1640s. According to Como, this assertion “was the central pillar in the doctrinal monolith of imputative antinomianism.”(236) The antinomian theologian John Eaton explains this doctrine from his “imputative” perspective by arguing that Christ’s righteousness clothes believers in such a way that the weaknesses in their faith and sanctification are “covered and utterly abolished from before God.”(237) Eaton adds that Christ’s imputed righteousness means that believers stand “perfectly holy and righteous from all spot of sin in the sight of God freely.”(238) There was no shortage of responses to this view from orthodox Reformed theologians. Not only the polemical Rutherford, but the irenic Sibbes, wrote against this error.(239) The issue is not whether, in justification, God declares us to be as righteous as his own Son. The imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ, affirmed by almost all Reformed Puritan divines, and, of course, by antinomian theologians, was not debated between them. Rather, the conclusions drawn from this doctrine by antinomian theologians caused a firestorm of debate. For example, because of his view that God sees no sin in the elect, John Saltmarsh reasoned that no sin “can make God who loves forever and unchangeably, love us less.”(240) Again, the problem was not that this statement was completely untrue. But such comments were unguarded and failed to account for the whole truth, which explains why Reformed theologians took issue with the antinomians. In order to formulate a biblically compelling account of how God’s love for his people is both the same and different, the nature of his love must be clarified.


There are different ways of understanding God’s love. In the first place, one must distinguish between the intra-Trinitarian love of God and the love God has for his creatures in relation to the affections of his ad extra will. God’s intra-Trinitarian (i.e., ad intra) love is eternal and therefore natural (amor naturalis). For this reason, this love is necessary. However, the love of God in relation to his creatures is not necessary, but rather voluntary (amor voluntarius). Among Reformed theologians, the voluntary love of God has received the most attention. According to this outward, voluntary love, there is a threefold distinction: (1) God’s universal love for all things, (2) God’s love for all human beings, both elect and reprobate, and (3) God’s special love for his people.(241) This third aspect of God’s love—for the elect—“belongs to the category of affection, arising inwardly and extending outward, and is not to be understood as a passion, arising because of some outward good that it apprehends and desires.”(242)


God’s voluntary love, understood as an affection, has three major components. Reformed divines have not always expressed these distinctions in the same way; but the following three categories relate to God’s love for the elect: (1) God’s love of benevolence (amor benevolentiae), understood in terms of God’s election and predestination, (2) God’s love of beneficence (amor beneficentiae), whereby he wills to redeem his people,(243) and (3) God’s love of delight or friendship (amor complacentiae vel amicitiae), whereby he rewards his people according to their holiness.(244) Staying consistent with their view that God sees no sin in the elect, the antinomians denied this distinction.(245) Rutherford responded to the antinomian denial of a distinction between God’s amor benevolentiae and his amor complacentiae by arguing that “it has an evident ground in Scripture.”(246) The antinomians’ denial of God’s complacent love is “without ground.”(247) After providing a thorough explanation of this twofold love of God, Rutherford says that the idea that when a justified person “whores, swears, kills the innocent, denies the Lord Jesus, as did Peter, and David, God loves us as much as when they believe, pray, . . . and God is not a whit displeased with the Saints, . . . is to us abominable.”(248) Incidentally, John Gill (1697–1771) rejected this distinction as fiercely as Rutherford affirmed it,(249) though one may question whether Gill accurately understood how orthodox Reformed theologians used it—which is not entirely uncommon in Gill’s interpretation of the Reformed tradition.(250) Gill’s hyper-Calvinism and avowal of justification from eternity certainly contributed to his distaste for this doctrine. This also shows how similar antinomian theology is to hyper-Calvinism. In the end, the distinction between God’s benevolent love and his complacent love has a rich Reformed pedigree.(251)


Regarding God’s love of delight or friendship, Benedict Pictet (1655–1724) argues that this is the love whereby God rewards us for being holy (John 14:21).(252) Besides Pictet, literally dozens of highly regarded Reformed theologians from the Reformation and post-Reformation period made use of this distinction. For example, Melchior Leydekker (1642–1721), a prominent Reformed theologian and professor of theology at Utrecht from 1678 to 1721, also distinguishes between God’s benevolent love and his complacent love:


God’s love is either of benevolence or of complacency. The first is the love by which God shall do well to the elect, before there is anything in them that could give Him complacency, John 3:16, Rom. 5:8. And therefore, it can be regarded either as predetermining in God’s decrees, or as actually effecting in time. The second, the love of complacency, is the case where God approves the good which is in the elect, especially as being commanded by him and caused, Heb. 11:5–6; John 14:21; 16:26–27.(253)


God’s benevolent love is logically prior to his complacent love. It could hardly be otherwise, because God’s love of benevolence is the fountain of election and all blessings the elect receive. The love of complacency delights in the good that is in his elect—but that good is only there because of his benevolent love.


A clear statement of God’s complacent love comes from Stephen Charnock. He speaks about the implications of believers being more holy, and argues that the more we are like God, the more love we shall have from him. He writes:


If God loves holiness in a lower measure, much more will he love it in a higher degree, because then his image is more illustrious and beautiful, and comes nearer to the lively lineaments of his own infinite purity . . . (John xiv 21). . . . He loves a holy man for some resemblance to him in his nature; but when there is an abounding in sanctified dispositions suitable to it, there is an increase of favor; the more we resemble the original, the more shall we enjoy the blessedness of that original: as any partake more of the Divine likeness, they partake more of the Divine happiness.(254)


Charnock is not merely arguing that God’s “increased love” is subjective from our perspective. Rather, he argues that God in fact loves in “higher degrees.” In other words, God cannot help but love us more and more if we become more and more like him. Christians will receive “an increase of favor,” the more we become like Christ. This view is by far the majority position among Reformed divines from the time of the Reformation onward, but today it is hardly ever discussed or preached on in Reformed circles.


In discussing the doctrine of justification, Francis Turretin notes the language of John 14:23, where Christ promises the love of the Father to those who love Christ, “not affectively and as to its beginning (as if the love of the Father then begins, since he loved us before, 1 John 4:10), but effectively and as to continuance and increase because he will prove his love by distinguished blessings and console them by a new manifestation of himself” (emphasis added).2(55) The threefold distinction in God’s love for his people means that justice can be done not only to texts that speak of God’s election of his people (Eph. 1:4–5) and his justifying acts (Rom. 4:5), but also to texts that speak of love in the context of ongoing communion with God and Christ (John 14:21–23; John 15:10; Jude 21).


God’s love of benevolence is the ground for his love of complacency. Furthermore, God’s love for us must be in Christ. The twofold love of benevolence and complacency is only possible in Christ and our threefold union with the Mediator.(256) God’s unconditional love is called his amor benevolentiae; his conditional love is called his amor complacentiae. Samuel Hopkins (1721–1803) addresses this point by noting that God’s benevolent love necessarily includes his complacent love. “Therefore,” says Hopkins, “a complacency and delight in holiness, or moral excellence, is always implied in holiness. God is therefore represented in the Scriptures as delighting and taking pleasure in the upright, in them that fear him and are truly holy, and delighting in the exercise of loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness.”(257) With this in mind, Hopkins makes plain that amor complacentiae is not the chief or primary part of God’s love, “for holiness must exist as the object of complacency, in order to the existence of the latter.”(258) Christians are surely correct, then, to emphasize and glory in God’s unconditional, eternal, infinite love of his people. But we are surely correct also to understand that God’s complacent love for us has a direct correlation to our godliness. This principle is nowhere more evident than in the person of Jesus Christ.




The love of God for the elect cannot be properly understood except in relation to Jesus Christ. As noted in the introduction, antinomian theologians do not have a robust Christology. God’s people cannot relate to him apart from a Mediator. His love for us and our love for God pass through the Son, so that if we love God, we must necessarily love his Son, and if God loves our Mediator, he must necessarily love us. Axiomatic to any understanding of God’s love for his people is the fact that the Son, as the eternally begotten of the Father, is, according to John Owen, the “first, necessary, adequate, complete object of the whole love of the Father.”(259) Owen adds that in the Son was the “ineffable, eternal, unchangeable delight and complacency of the Father, as the full object of his love.”(260) On this point there can be no dispute. But there is more to say about God’s love for his Son.


As the God-man, seated in glory, Christ is still the “peculiar object of the love of the Father.”(261) The person of Christ, in his divine nature, is necessarily loved by the Father (i.e., ad intra love). However, the love that the Father has for Christ, “as clothed with human nature, is the first and full object of the love of the Father in those acts of it which are ‘ad extra,’ or are towards anything without himself” (Isa. 42:1).(262) In relation to the church, God “loves him for us all, and us no otherwise but as in him.”(263) But there is something else to be considered that more narrowly focuses the discussion of this chapter, namely, whether God’s love for Christ is only eternal (and thus necessary) and unchangeable, or whether there is a sense in which God’s love for his Son increases in relation to Christ’s obedience. In other words, how does God’s love of complacency relate to his Son, the God-man, Jesus Christ?


In John 10:17, Jesus says, “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” As Thomas Goodwin notes, “It is spoken in relation unto his fulfilling this . . . command formerly mentioned, so withal imports, as if God should love Christ the better for the love he should show to us” (emphasis added).(264) Then, referencing John 15:10 (“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”), Goodwin also shows how Christ was commanded by the Father to lay down his life, among other reasons, in order to remain in his Father’s love, and that Christ’s sheep are mutual pledges of love between the Father and the Son.(265) Again, this love has to do with the ad extra will of God with respect to the God-man in his role as Mediator. God delights in his Son, not only necessarily, because he is his Son, but also voluntarily, because Christ obeys the Father perfectly and this brings delight to the Father. It is little wonder, then, that Luke records how Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52, emphasis added).(266) If this was true before his baptism, how much more true was it afterward, as Christ continued in his Father’s love by obeying him, even to the point of death!


Thus, the Father has a twofold love for Christ: (1) a natural, infinite, and eternal love of his person, for he is the divine Son, and (2) the love of the God-man, in his mediatorial role, as he obeyed the Father perfectly and learned obedience as he suffered (Heb. 5:8). The former was not subject to increase, but the latter was. This point, not often emphasized when this subject is discussed, has certain implications for our understanding of God’s love for his people, which will be addressed below.


Perhaps the fact that nothing in God can be said to be subject to increase—just as there are no attributes in God, but his simple, undivided essence—because there is nothing accidental in him, explains why pastors and theologians do not often speak of God’s love increasing. Yet Scripture calls us to speak of God’s good pleasure increasing. God had a greater complacency in the completed creation than in the individual parts (i.e., “very good” versus “good” in Gen. 1). God did not change himself, but in the completion of creation there was perfection and harmony of the whole, which indicates that he was more pleased at the end of his creating activity than in the isolated parts before everything was done. God was always pleased with Christ while he ministered on earth, but there is a completeness to Christ’s work on the cross—“it is finished” (John 19:30)—that provided the basis for God’s new work of creation, whereby he could say it is “very good.”




The question whether God loves his people in different ways and degrees should never be considered apart from whether Christ loves his people in different ways and degrees. Christ is not only divine, but also human. In his human nature, Christ’s love for other humans is subject to increase. Reformed Christology maintains that the finite cannot comprehend the infinite. Christ’s gifts and graces (e.g., knowledge, faith, hope, love) increased from the incarnation to his heavenly enthronement and beyond. Indeed, Christ has gained greater knowledge in his human nature in heaven than he had on earth. Moreover, because he received the Holy Spirit afresh in heaven, to the greatest degree possible for a human being, Christ’s love for his people increased and did not lessen in any way.(267)


While on earth, Christ apparently did not love all people equally. His choice of disciples was a matter of election, though obviously not in a soteric way in the case of Judas. There is no doubt that Jesus loved all of his true disciples (John 13:1; 14:21; 15:9; 17:9, 12). But there was one special disciple “whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 21:7, 20). This disciple was, I believe, John. As William Hendriksen comments, this name (“the disciple whom Jesus loved”) “had been given to this one disciple, to him alone. Is it not possible that the others had bestowed this honorable title upon him when they noticed the intimate character of the fellowship between him and the Master?”(268) In his human nature, Christ desired fellowship with other human beings. Just as we experience different levels of intimacy in our relationships, it should come as no surprise to us that Christ experienced differing degrees of intimacy with his disciples. In the case of John, Christ seems to have had a special relationship. The other examples of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus also confirm this point.


Christ’s teaching in John 14:21,23 (269) confirms the point about varying degrees of communion. The distinction between God’s love of benevolence and his love of complacency enables us to understand the plain teaching of this text, so that the glorious truth of God’s unconditional love is not jettisoned for a love that is only conditional. Arminians and Roman Catholics seize upon texts like these and come to numerous unsound conclusions. But, as Turretin noted above, the love promised by the Father and Christ to those who keep Christ’s commandments refers not to God’s “affective” love (its beginning), but his “effective” love (its continuance and increase). Tullian Tchividjian’s book, Jesus + Nothing = Everything, lacks the theological framework to deal with Christ’s words in John 14:21, 23 (and 15:10).(270) Tchividjian repeatedly argues that our obedience, or lack thereof, does not affect our relationship with God. His book fails to distinguish between God’s love of benevolence and his love of complacency. Moreover, he often states things as either-or, when, in fact, the doctrine in question is more both-and. This approach goes back to the seventeenth century, when antinomian theologians never quite seemed to balance the both-and concept in their theology. Of course, one hyperbolic statement here or there, to emphasize a point more strongly, should not evoke harsh criticism from readers. But his whole book is one lengthy antinomian diatribe, and it bears a striking resemblance to the content and rhetoric of various seventeenth-century antinomian writings.(271)




Christ loves his bride, and because he has a true human nature, he has real passions for his church. But because God is simple and without passions (WCF 2.1), he is, as Edward Leigh (1603–71) correctly notes, “neither pleased nor displeased.”(272) The Scriptures do, however, speak plainly of God’s pleasure and displeasure. Leigh affirms that “God by an external and constant act of his will approves obedience and the purity of the creature, and witnesses that by some sign of his favour, but abhors the iniquity and sin of the same creature, and shows the same by inflicting a punishment” (Ex. 32:10).(273) According to William Ames (1576–1633), when Scripture attributes affections, such as hatred, to God, this must be understood “either as designate acts of the will” or else they “apply to God only figuratively.”(274) Simply put, God’s anger is an expression of his ad extra will, not his essential being. But Christ’s anger may be an expression of his person, because he is a complex person (the God-man, who has two natures). Indeed, even in his exalted human nature, as evidenced by some of his remarks to the churches in Revelation (e.g., chaps. 2–3), Christ expresses anger. This constant reminder about the person of Christ cannot be relegated to the background. God reveals himself principally in the person of his Son, who is the God-man.


When discussing whether God is angry or displeased, there must be recourse not only to the attributes of God, particularly his simplicity, but also to the person of Christ. Appropriately, Christians may speak about God’s anger toward the sins of the regenerate, as well as his delight in their obedience. But in this discussion there must also be a decided focus on Christ’s truly human passions as he relates to his church, both in anger and in delight.




Since God’s ad extra will includes anger toward his creatures, he can in fact be angry at the sins of the elect. The antinomian idea that God sees no sin in the elect had, as noted above, a number of far-reaching pastoral implications, most of which were not very good. One of those was the idea that God could not be angry with the justified.(275) Hebrews 12:5–6, according to “their principles,” has in view not the godly, but ungodly persons that need to be chastised in order to be driven to Christ.(276) But orthodox Reformed theologians, such as Rutherford, insisted that God “is really angry at his own children’s sins” because he punishes them for their sins.(277) The Westminster Confession likewise makes clear that the elect can be subject to God’s fatherly displeasure. Those who are justified can never lose their justification; “yet they may, by their sins, fall under God’s fatherly displeasure, and not have the light of his countenance restored unto them, until they humble themselves, confess their sins, beg pardon, and renew their faith and repentance” (WCF 11.5).(278)


In his response to antinomianism, John Flavel deals with the view that God cannot be angry with the elect. He notes that the antinomians are led into this view in part by their fear of popery, and also by the idea that Christ’s satisfaction for our sins is inconsistent with the idea that God chastises and gets angry with his people. In response, Flavel argues that God must necessarily hate sin, even in light of Christ’s satisfaction. For the Christian, however, God loves the person. “His hatred to their sins, and love to their persons are not inconsistent.”(279) Moreover, the antinomians fail to make a crucial distinction between “vindictive punishments from God,” which are the effects of his wrath toward the non-elect, and his “paternal castigations,” which are the “pure issues of the care and love of a displeased Father.”(280)


The differences between the two types of punishments are far-reaching: one is legal, the other evangelical; one is out of wrath and hatred, the other out of love; one leads to destruction, the other leads to sanctification and salvation. Not content with these qualifications, Flavel makes three important concessions: (1) Christ’s satisfaction has entirely erased God’s vindictive wrath toward the justified. (2) The sufferings of believers are not always for their sins, but sometimes to prevent sin. Sufferings are sometimes for the trial of our graces, and some sufferings confirm God’s truths (Acts 5:41). These types of trials “have much heavenly comfort concomitant with them.”(281) (3) God’s displeasure toward his people, “evidenced in the sharpest rebukes of the rod,” does not mean that God’s love has turned to hatred. Rather, God’s love is unchangeable.(282) In other words, there can be no change in God’s amor benevolentiae, but God’s pleasure, understood also as his amor complacentiae, may change. Thus, after the litany of David’s sins against Bathsheba and Uriah, we read: “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Sam. 11:27). For believers today, with the incarnation of the Son of God, promise has become fulfillment. There is a heightened indicative in the new covenant and therefore a heightened obligation to love and obey God.


Because of the heightened new covenant indicatives, believers today, when they consciously sin against God’s law, not only displease their heavenly Father, but also displease Christ, who reigns in heaven. Christ’s displeasure and frustration with his own disciples during his ministry on earth cannot be denied, even with a cursory glance at the Gospels, but in his exalted state the Lord Jesus shows displeasure with, for example, the church at Laodicea (Rev. 3:15–16). Christians need to be warned that they risk grieving the triune God when they willfully sin against his law. While there were and are theoretical antinomians, who deny that God can be angry with those who are justified, perhaps the more pressing problem is that of practical antinomianism, whereby ministers fail to warn their people that they can displease God and Christ or that God can be angry with his people, as he often has been (Ezra 9; 2 Kings 17:18). Equally, there is the other side, namely, that Christians are also able to please God and Christ by obeying their commands and enjoying communion with the three persons of the Trinity.




Christians are able to please their Father in heaven only because Christ pleased his Father by perfectly obeying him during his earthly ministry (Mark 1:11; Matt. 17:5). As noted above, God loved Christ not only with a benevolent love, but also with a complacent love, far above all men and angels combined. The Father delighted in Jesus, his servant: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights” (Isa. 42:1). Because of our union with the risen Savior, Christians are frequently urged to please God and Christ. Sometimes Paul speaks of pleasing God, as in Philippians 4:18 (see also Heb. 13:21; Rom. 14:18; 1 Thess. 4:1). At other times, Paul speaks of pleasing Christ (2 Cor. 5:9). Our conduct may result in being described as “fully pleasing” to Christ (Col. 1:10).


The language of pleasing the Lord helps us to understand the nature of God’s complacent love. Speaking of the necessity of good works, Anthony Burgess notes that just as Leah said, “Now my husband will love me” (Gen. 29:32), “so may Faith say, Now God will love me, when it abounds in the fruits of righteousness; for, our godly actions please God, though imperfect; only the ground is, because our persons were first reconciled with God [according to God’s amor benevolentiae].”(283)


The Christian, living by faith, continually asks, How may I please the Lord? We make it our aim to please God and Christ and thus bring glory to Jesus, which is his reward for having cleansed us by his sacrificial death. The more we please Christ, the more he comes to delight in his people and rejoice that his work for us is being realized by his work in us. The sanctification of the church is an important part of Christ’s glory. It would be incorrect to affirm that we can add to or diminish God’s essential glory. But, again, we may or may not bring glory to the God-man, depending on our obedience or sin. Our desire that in all things Christ should have the preeminence should cause us to seek to please him more and more (Col. 1:18).




The glorious truth that God loves us unconditionally is a Reformed commonplace that gives wonderful assurance to the Christian. But if this is all that is ever said about God’s love, then there is a significant problem, for, as J. I. Packer once quipped in his remarkable introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, “a half-truth masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.”(284) God’s benevolent love, which is the highest love that he expresses toward his elect, has not only a logical priority in his twofold love for his people, but also a causal priority. Yet to speak only of God’s benevolent love is dangerous, because it ignores the important truth that God loves and delights in the goodness that is in his people, and also the fact that Christ, according to both natures, communes in love with his people, but to varying degrees. The distinction between God’s unconditional love, understood as his amor benevolentiae, and his conditional love, understood as his amor complacentiae, enables Christians not only to make sense of the passages cited above (e.g., John 14:21, 23), but also to rejoice that God is pleased and delighted in the obedience that we offer to him. More than that, the Christological element that has been highlighted in this chapter serves to ground discussions of God’s love, pleasure, and displeasure in the person of Christ. As Mediator, Christ was the object of God’s twofold love, as well as his displeasure. God was never happier with his Son than when he was angry with him—at the cross.


From our perspective, we relate to God in and through Jesus Christ, which means that when we discuss the pleasure and displeasure of God, we must never divorce that affection from the person of Christ, who, according to his human nature, is necessarily pleased and displeased with his people because of their obedience and sin. To deny that truth would be to rob Christ of his humanity. But his humanity is, for us, as important as his divinity. According to both natures, in the unity of his person, Christ loves his people with benevolence and complacency.




  1. Thomas Manton, The Complete Works of Thomas Manton (London: J. Nisbet, 1870–75), 13:140–41
  2. Joseph B. Felt, The Ecclesiastical History of New England (Boston: Congregational Library Association, 1855–62), 1:318.
  3. Of course, in keeping with the idea that our good works are prepared in advance by God, we could also look at the issue in terms of whether those who do more good works than others have been recipients of God’s love and grace on a greater level.
  4. David Como, Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre-Civil-War England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 394.
  5. John Eaton, The honey-combe of free justification by Christ alone (London, 1642), 127.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Samuel Rutherford, A survey of the spirituall antichrist (London, 1647), 2:26–27; Richard Sibbes, The Returning Backslider (London, 1639), 170.
  8. John Saltmarsh, Free Grace (London, 1645), 130.
  9. See Benedict Pictet, Theologia Christiana Benedicti Picteti (Londini: R. Baynes, 1820), 71. “Tres vulgò gradus amoris Dei solent distingui.”
  10. Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2003), 3:567.
  11. God’s love of beneficence is subsumed under his love of benevolence in many Reformed authors, and that is the pattern followed in this chapter.
  12. See ibid.
  13. See, for example, Samuel Richardson, Divine consolations (London, 1649), 207; Henry Denne, Grace, mercy, and peace (London, 1645), 32–35.
  14. Rutherford, Spirituall antichrist, 2:20.
  15. Ibid., 2:21.
  16. Ibid., 2:22.
  17. “It is high time that these distinctions about the love of God, with that of an antecedent and consequent one, were laid aside, which so greatly obscure the glory of God’s unchangeable love and grace.” John Gill, A Collection of Sermons and Tracts (London: George Keith, 1773–78), 3:210.
  18. See Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 141, 147.
  19. This distinction is used in the Acta of the Synod of Dort: Acta Synodi Nationalis: in nomine Domini nostri Jesu Christi (Dordrechti: Isaaci Joannidis Canini, 1620), 49. Thomas Goodwin refers to it as an “old distinction” (i.e., going back to the Medieval theologians). The Works of Thomas Goodwin, D.D. (1861–66; repr., Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 1:109.
  20. “Primo amore Deus nos eligit, secundo nos redimit et sanctificat, tertio nos sanctos remuneratur. Deo isto ultimo loquitur Christus Joh. xiv.21.” Pictet, Theologia Christiana, 71–72.
  21. “De liefde Gods is of van gunst en welwillentheid; of van welbehagen en genoegen. De eerste is/ waardoor God de uitverkorene wil wel doen, eer dat in dezelve yts in haar is, dat als een zedelijk goed hem kon welgevallen, Joan. 3:16 . . . Rom. 5:8. En zo kan ze of als voorschikkende in Gods besluiten/ of als dadelijk uitwerkende in der tijd werden aangemerkt. De tweede, van welbehagen, is/ waar door God het goed, dat in de uitverkorenen is, byzonder als van hem geboden en uitgewrogt met welgevallen goed keurt. Heb. 11:5/6 . . . Joa. 14:21; 16:26/27.” Melchior Leydekker, De verborgentheid des geloofs eenmaal den heiligen overgelevert, of het kort begryp der ware godsgeleerdheid beleden in de Gereformeerde Kerk (Rotterdam, 1700), 74–75.
  22. Stephen Charnock, Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God (London: Thomas Tegg, 1840), 206–7. Herman Witsius refers to Charnock in reference to God’s complacent love. Conciliatory, or Irenical Animadversions, on the Controversies Agitated in Britain, under the unhappy names of Antinomians and Neonomians, trans. Thomas Bell (Glasgow: W. Lang, 1807), 177.
  23. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1992), 16.8.17.
  24. By “threefold union,” I mean the (1) eternal/immanent union, (2) redemptive-historical  /transient union, and (3) existential/applicatory/mutual union. Various terms have been used for each category over the centuries.
  25. Samuel Hopkins, The Works of Samuel Hopkins (Boston: Doctrinal Tract and Book Society, 1854), 1:50.
  26. Ibid.
  27. John Owen, The Works of John Owen, D.D., ed. William H. Goold (Edinburgh: Johnstone & Hunter, 1850–55), 1:144.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Ibid., 1:145.
  30. Ibid.
  31. Ibid., 1:146.
  32. Goodwin, Works, 4:114.
  33. Ibid., 4:115.
  34. Note also the language in 1 Samuel 2:26 that describes Samuel growing in “stature and in favor with the LORD and also with man.”
  35. On Reformed Christology, see Mark Jones, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Jesus Christ: An Introduction to Christology (Fearn, UK: Christian Focus Publications, 2012); Beeke and Jones, A Puritan Theology, chap. 31.
  36. William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel according to John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979), 245–46.
  37. “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him. . . . If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”
  38. Tullian Tchividjian, Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), e.g., 98, 140, 142–43.
  39. Readers may be interested to know that the impetus for writing this book on antinomianism came after I had received a startling number of communications from professors, pastors, and laypersons in varied theological traditions who had read my online review of Jesus + Nothing = Everything. See http://www.meetthepuritans.com/2011/12/16/jesus-nothing-everything-an-analysis.
  40. Edward Leigh, A Treatise of Divinity (London: William Lee, 1646), 2:75.
  41. Ibid.
  42. William Ames, The Marrow of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1997), 87.
  43. See Eaton, Honey-combe of free justification, 120ff.
  44. Ibid., 133.
  45. Samuel Rutherford, The Tryal and Triumph of Faith (London, 1645), 37.
  46. Note also answer 48 in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “These words [before me] in the first commandment teach us, That God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other god” (emphasis added).
  47. John Flavel, The Works of the Rev. Mr. John Flavel (1820; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1997), 3:574. Incidentally, the idea that God hates the sin but loves the sinner, which is mocked by many Christians, has a strong Reformed pedigree. God loves the justified person, but hates the sin remaining in the justified person. However, that distinction cannot be made of the non-elect. God hates evildoers, not just evil deeds (Ps. 5:5).
  48. Ibid., 3:575.
  49. Ibid.
  50. Ibid. See also Rutherford, The Tryal and Triumph of Faith, 30–43.
  51. Anthony Burgess, Vindiciae legis: or, A vindication of the morall law and the covenants, from the Errours of Papists, Arminians, Socinians, and more especially Antinomians (London: T. Underhill, 1646), 44.
  52. J. I. Packer, “Introductory Essay,” in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1999), 2.

John Owen, the Old Testament and the Covenant of Grace



We have been discussing the Particular Baptist theological views on the Puritanboard and it is very apparent that the 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith is very different than the views confessed by those who hold to the Westminster Confession of Faith.  Both sides have a deep reverence for the Independent Puritan John Owen who held to a Confessional statement known as the Savoy Declaration.  The Reformed Baptist use Owen to say that the Covenant of Grace was not established until the New Covenant fulfilled the Old Covenant and the Promises found in the Old Testament.  But that has been a debated topic for years.  John Owen may be very confusing to some and he has written a lot.  It is hard to understand him sometimes so he must be read and understood in the full context of his whole writing.


Anyways, one of the Elders on the board put together a response that I have found to be very informative.  So has another Scholar I respect from years past.  I will post both replies from the Puritanboard here.  I believe both of them are in response to a Baptist who holds to a rather newer understanding of Reformed Baptist Theology.  It is called 1689 Federalism.  It is a newer view only in the fact that much of its theology is rediscovered theology from the 17th Century.

I will post Paul Korte’s observations first. Then I will post Rich Leino’s observations.

Paul Korte

If one’s goal is to attain an understanding of Owen’s covenant position*, forward progress, no matter the strength or subtlety of your mental gymnastics, will be crippled so long as the intellectual wrestling takes place within the narrow confines of his commentary on the eighth chapter of Hebrews. It is the equivalent of trying to learn the definition of “antidisestablishmentarianism” by only reading the definitions of “anti-” and “establish” over and over again. The problem is made worse by attempting to read Owen through the lens of current discussions and debates. While we sit and debate Owen’s stance on matters with which Owen, quite frankly, wasn’t concerned, he might be standing ahead assuming the form of Whitman, saying “missing me one place search another, I stop somewhere waiting for you.” The simple fact is, he’s already ahead of you just waiting for you to catch up to him.

After reading through the whole of Owen, I was faced with the inescapable conclusion – all these discussions get him completely wrong. Not only that, but he’s probably more thoroughly in keeping with the Westminster Confession than most people who are arguing about what to do with Owen’s embarrassingly wide departure from the confession. The reason for the mental disconnect, I would suggest, lies with the fact that Owen is thinking of the historical manifestation of salvation within the framework of a term I never see brought into the discussion: the “church-state.” The discussion board nature severely limits what can reasonably be posted, so I will be highly selective and limit commentary, hoping the selection and arrangement of quotations can allow enough of Owen to shine through to make his thought a bit more clear.

To begin, consider the following passage from his The True Nature of a Gospel Church, roughly contemporaneous to material normally discussed from his commentary:

Thus under the old testament, when God would take the posterity of Abraham into a new, peculiar church-state, he did it by a solemn covenant. Herein, as he prescribed all the duties of his worship to them, and made them many blessed promises of his presence, with powers and privileges innumerable, so the people solemnly covenanted and engaged with him that they would do and observe all that he had commanded them; whereby they coalesced into that church-state which abode unto the time of reformation. This covenant is at large declared, Exodus 24: for the covenant which God made there with the people, and they with him, was not the covenant of grace under a legal dispensation, for that was established unto the seed of Abraham four hundred years before, in the promise with the seal of circumcision; nor was it the covenant of works under a gospel dispensation, for God never renewed that covenant under any consideration whatever; but it was a peculiar covenant which God then made with them, and had not made with their fathers, Deuteronomy 5:2,3, whereby they were raised and erected into a church-state, wherein they were intrusted with all the privileges and enjoined all the duties which God had annexed thereunto. This covenant was the sole formal cause of their church-state, which they are charged so often to have broken, and which they so often solemnly renewed unto God. (Ch. 2, paragraph 18**, bold emphasis mine)​

Note that “the Abrahamic Covenant” is referred to here as the legal administration of the covenant of grace. The Sinai covenant is the taking of the people who are under this legal administration of the covenant of grace and formally enacting a particular and specific church-state which will govern them. It is not something contrary to the Abrahamic covenant, but rather a “particularization” of it: accordingly, Owen can elsewhere (Exercitation 21, paragraph 7) that the promises of the Sinai covenant are “annexed to the then present administration of the covenant of grace.”

These “annexed promises,” this formal enacting of a specific church-state, is also sometimes referred to by Owen as an “administration” of the covenant. For example, in Exercitation 19 (paragraph 34), he writes:

That which God, on the other hand, requires of them is, that they keep his covenant, Exodus 19:5. Now, this covenant of God with them had a double expression; – first, In the giving of it unto Abraham, and its confirmation by the sign of circumcision. But this is not that which is here especially intended; for it was the administration of the covenant, wherein the whole people became the peculiar treasure and inheritance of God upon a new account, which is respected.​

This passage is important for understanding Owen’s framework. This language of the Sinai Covenant “administering” the covenant (under its “legal” or “Abrahamic” dispensation) situates Owen with the mainstream of Westminster theology, and accounts for his ability to write things such as the following without contradiction:

After the fall he entered into another covenant with mankind, which, from the principle, nature and ends of it, is commonly called the covenant of grace. This, under several forms of external administration, hath continued ever since in force, and shall do so to the consummation of all things.(Exercitation 28, paragraph 2)​

This helps to contextualize what he means, for example, when he states in the tenth chapter of his Christologia:
All the promises that God gave afterwards [that is, after the promise to Adam] unto the church under the Old Testament, before and after giving the law — all the covenants that he entered into with particular persons, or the whole congregation of believers — were all of them declarations and confirmations of the first promise, or the way of salvation by the mediation of his Son, becoming the seed of the woman, to break the head of the serpent, and to work out the deliverance of mankind.[/indent]

Throughout his Hebrews commentary, Owen argues that the purpose of the covenant at Sinai was to formally establish a visible church-state (with all its terms and obedience) with his covenanted people so as to preserve a separate people who hold forth visible tokens and signs of the coming Messiah and what he will enact when he comes. Thus it is, as he says, “not a mere dispensation of the covenant of grace”, though it did administer the legal dispensation of the covenant, but a “particular, temporary covenant.” This doesn’t change the fact that, by its very nature as a covenant “whereby that people walked with God,” it administered the terms of the covenant of grace.

With this basic framework in mind, I wish to present material on two related topics: 1.) Owen’s conception of what “the Law” referred to in its Sinaitic context; and 2.) In what way the Sinai Covenant was inadequate, and how this relates to his discussion of the word “established,” as pertains to the New Covenant.

For the first, the rule was (plainly) the Moral Law. But Owen does not mean by “The Law” the law considered nakedly. For example, in his Christologia (ch. 11), he states: “Howbeit, as the Church of Israel, as such, was not obliged unto obedience unto the moral law absolutely considered, but as it was given unto them peculiarly in the hand of a mediator.” Also, in the fourteenth chapter of his Doctrine of Justification:

That this law, this rule of obedience, as it was ordained of God to be the instrument of his rule of the church, and by virtue of the covenant made with Abraham, unto whose administration it was adapted, and which its introduction on Sinai did not disannul, was accompanied with a power and efficacy enabling unto obedience. The law itself, as merely receptive and commanding, administered no power or ability unto those that were under its authority to yield obedience unto it; no more do the mere commands of the gospel. Moreover, under the Old Testament it enforced obedience on the minds and consciences of men by the manner of its first delivery, and the severity of its sanction, so as to fill them with fear and bondage; and was, besides, accompanied with such burdensome rules of outward worship, as made it a heavy yoke unto the people. But as it was God’s doctrine, teaching, instruction in all acceptable obedience unto himself, and was adapted unto the covenant of Abraham, it was accompanied with an administration of effectual grace, procuring and promoting obedience in the church. And the law is not to be looked on as separated from those aids unto obedience which God administered under the Old Testament; whose effects are therefore ascribed unto the law itself See Psalm 1,19,119.​

Finally, note that in Exercitation 21, he again writes that the Law or the rule of the Covenant was “the law” considered in itself, but the law “accommodated” to (the legal dispensation of) the covenant of grace:

In that it [the law] had a dispensation added unto the commands of obedience, and interpretation, kat’ epeikeian, by condescension, given by God himself, as to the perfection of its observance and manner of its performance in reference unto this new end. It required not absolutely perfect obedience, but perfectness of heart, integrity, and uprightness, in them that obeyed.​

This is pure Burroughs, pure Boston. In short, pure, plain-vanilla Westminster understanding of the law as accommodated to the covenant of grace. So long as “law” is understood to mean “command” and “gospel,” “promise,” Owen will be unintelligible. He as to be understood in his own, Westminster context wherein the covenant of grace itself contains commands and even threatenings which “are annexed to the dispensation of the covenant of grace, as an instituted means to reader it effectual, and to accomplish the ends of it” (Hebrews, ch. 4, vv.1-2, emphasis original).

As to the second topic, I direct the reader first back to the opening quotation from The True Nature of the Gospel Church.With that in mind, I wish to offer two further passages from his Hebrews commentary. Much of the confusion regarding Owen’s understanding, I think, results from his comparisons of what “The Law” and “The New Covenant” respectively accomplish/ed. His repeated statements that “The Law” or “Sinai” could not perfect the people cause readers to believe Owen is saying something far different from what he intends. Let’s let Owen set the record straight:

Now, it is not the rest of heaven that, in this antithesis between the law and the gospel, is opposed hereunto, but the rest that believers have in Christ, with that church-state and worship which by him, as the great prophet of the church, in answer unto Moses, was erected, and into the possession whereof he powerfully leads them, as did Joshua the people of old into the rest of Canaan. (Ch. 4, vv.1-2 – the whole section ought to be read; emphasis original)​

Further, from chapter 9:

He doth not in this place compare together and oppose the future state of glory which we shall have by Christ with and unto the state of the church in this world under the old testament….But he compares the present state of the church, the privileges, advantages, and grace which it enjoyed by the priesthood of Christ, with what it had by the Aaronical priesthood; for the fundamental principle which he confirms is, that the teleiosin, or present “perfection” of the church, is the effect of the priesthood of Christ.​

And finally, see especially his comments on ch. 7 v.11, where he details at length how the ability to perfect which is denied to “The Law” is not the “perfection” or “salvation” of the individual, but to the perfection of the “church-state.” It is in this context that Owen’s famous discussion of the word “established” in chapter 8 is to be understood. It is only when the blood of the covenant has been shed that the testamentary grant can truly be enacted; and, accordingly, it is only then that the substance of the covenant can become the sole “rule” of the covenant and the church “perfected” or brought into its full, covenant church-state.

I realize the discussion board format is inadequate to advance these ideas in a truly meaningful or useful way – what I have presented is far too long for a discussion board, but far too short and “ad hoc” to interact meaningfully on the topic. But I hope that it can help at least point readers to the context in which they should be reading Owen. If one reads portions of Owen, the “baby Owen” created thereby will, indeed, diverge from the Westminster tradition; if one reads all of Owen, I think they will find he instead illuminates much of the tradition and exposes us to the current blind spots in our own self-understanding.

I think Matthew Winzer’s comments on the material which others have quoted in this thread need to be considered carefully. He is fairly and correctly placing Owen within his proper tradition.

I do apologize for not being able to stick around and discuss this further – but participating in the board is not currently practical. Nevertheless, I saw this discussion a few days ago, and wanted to at least be able to offer a suggestion for direction, and then allow those better qualified to make what they will of it.

*Please, if anything in this post duplicates material presented in the recent paper or monograph referenced earlier in the thread, accept my deepest apologies. I will delete this post so as not to give people a substitute for someone’s published research. I have not been able to keep up on the literature.

**I’ve tried to adopt a “generic” reference system for this post so people with various editions of his work can easily locate the texts in question.



Rather than post another reply to a long thread, I just want to post a bit of information that provides some information for those who keep getting referred to see how Owen refers to the OC as not belonging to the CoG. I actually think Owen makes some good points but I also think there is some nuance that allows for those who want to appropriate him for reasons that I don’t believe he would want to be appropriated.

Here’s what Beeke and Jones write about him here:

Here’s what Owen writes:

Sin and Temptation


Some good teaching by John Owen. We are reading Sin and Temptation in an abridged form.

Love the whole Law of God

1Pe 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

Sin fights the spiritual principle that is in us. It fights to destroy our soul. Although it opposes the work of grace in us, its nature and prupose above all is to oppose God.

When we think of God as the lawgiver, of God as holy, of God as the author of salvation, then we see how deadly serious is the enmity of sin. Why does sin oppose duty, so that the good we would do, we do not? Why does sin make the soul carnal, indisposed, unbelieving, unspiritual, weary, and wandering? Simply because it is enmity to God with whom the soul aims to have communion….

Sin attacks holiness and God’s authority in our lives. It hates the yoke of the Lord. “Thou hast been weary of me,” says God to sinners during their performance of various duties (Isaiah 43:22) Indeed, every act of sin is the fruit of being weary against God. At the bottom of our hearts, the nature of sin is to say to God, “Depart from us” (Job 21:14;22:17) It is to oppose God, to rebel, to cast off His yoke, and to destroy the dependence every creature has upon the Creator.

In Romans 8:7 the Apostle gives the reason why the sinful carnal mind is at enmity against God. It is because it is not subject to the will of God, nor can it be.

Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
Rom 8:8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

One of the dispositions we can cling to and fight sin is to have a heart fixed upon God and His Law.

Only a holy frame of disposition will enable us to say with the psalmist, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed” (Psalm57:7). It is utterly impossible to keep the heart in a holy frame in any one duty, unless it is also so in all duties to God. If sin entangles us in one area of our life, it will ensnare every area of our life. A contented even disposition and spirit in all duties and in all ways, is the only preservative.
Consistency must be maintained in our private and public duties, for there is a harmony in obedience. If you break one part, you interrupt the whole. Thus David says, “Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments” (Psalm 119:6). A universal respect of for all of God’s commandments is the only preservative against shame.

Psa 119:6 Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.

Jas 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Jas 2:11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

Psa 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:

Four Temperaments

Four Temperaments


I haven’t posted anything for some time and I was reminded of something I use to reference years ago.  I found it helpful when I was trying to discern some things in my life.  I wanted to post it here for reference.  It comes from J. I. Packer’s book Rediscovering Holiness.

Holiness Has to Do with My Temperment.


By temperment I mean the factors that make specific ways of reacting and behaving natural to me. To use psychologists’ jargon, it is my temperment that inclines me to transact with my enviornment (situations, things, and people) in the way I usually do.

Drawing on the full resources of this jargon, psychologist Gordon Allport defines temperament as “the characteristic phenomena of an individual’s nature, including his susceptibility to emotional stimulation, his customary strength and speed of response, the quality of his prevailing mood, and all the peculiarities of fluctuation and intensity of mood, these being regarded as dependent on constituational make-up, and therefore largely hereditary in origin.” Allport’s statement is cumbersome but clear. Temperament, we might say, is marterial out of which character is formed. Character is what we do with our temperament. Personality is the final product, the distinct individuality that results.

Temperaments are classified in various ways: positive and negative, easy and difficult, introverted and extroverted, outgoing and withdrawn, active and passive, giving and taking, sociable and forthcoming as distinct from manipulative and self-absorbed, shy and uninhibited, quick and slow to warm up, stiffly defiant as contrasted with flexibly acquiescent, and so on.

While these classifications are useful in their place, perhaps the most useful of all, certainly to the pastoral leader, is the oldest one which Greek physicians had already worked out before the time of Christ. It distinguishes four human tempermants:
The sanguine (warm, jolly, outgoing, relaxed, optimistic);
The phlegmatic (cool, low-key, detached, unemotional, apathetic);
The choleric (quick active, bustling, impatient, with a relatively short fuse);
The melancholic (somber, pessimistic, inward-looking, inclined to cynicism and depression).

It then acknowledges the reality of mixed types, such as the phlegmatic-melancholic and the sanguine-choleric, when features of two of the temperaments are found in the same person. In this way it covers everybody. The ancient beliefs about body fluids that supported this classification are nowadays dispelled, but the classification itself remains pastorally helpful. People do observably fall into these categories and recognizing them helps one to understand the temper and reactions of the person with whom one is dealing.

The assertion that I now make, and must myself face, is that I am not to become (or remain) a victim of my tempearment. Each temperament has its own strengths and also its weaknesses. Sanguine people tend to live thoughtlessly and at random. Phlegmatic people tend to be remote and unfeeling, sluggish and unsympathetic. Choleric people tend to be quarrelsome, bad tempered, and poor team players. Melancholic people tend to see everything as bad and wrong and to deny that anything is ever really good and right. Yielding to my temperamental weaknesses is, of course, the most natural thing for me to do, and is therefore the hardest sort of sin for me to deal with and detect. But holy humanity, as I see it in Jesus Christ, combines in itself the strengths of all four temperaments without any of the weaknesses. Therefore, I must try to be like Him in this, and not indulge the particular behavioural flaws to which my temperament tempts me.

Holiness for a person of sanguine temperament, then, will involve learning to look before one leaps, to think things through responsiibly, and to speak wisely rather than wildly. (These were among the lessons Peter liearned with the Spirit’s help after Pentecost.) Holiness for a person of phlegmatic temperament will involve a willingness to be open with people, to feel with them and for them, to be forthcoming in relationships, and to become vulnerable, in the sense of risking being hurt. Holiness for a choleric person will involve practicing patience and self-control. It will mean redirecting one’s anger and hostility toward Satan and sin, rather thatn toward fellow human beings who are obstructing what one regards as the way forward. (These were among the lessons Paul learned from the Lord after his conversion.) Finally, holiness for the melancholic person will involve learning to rejoice in God, to give up self-pity and proud pessimism, and to believe, with the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, that through sovereign divine grace, “All shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” /What are my temperamental weaknesses? If I am to be holy, as I am called to be, I must identify them (that is the hard part) and ask my Lord to enable me to form habits of rising above them.

[Redicovering Holiness by J. I. Packer] pp24-26


King of Nations as well as King of Saints


My old buddy R. Andrew Myers has put together a book on the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ.  Just thought I would give a heads up on the work.


Link to page 1 of book



How great indeed is the scope and extent of Christ’s Kingly rule! He is not only Lord of all as one Person within the Triune God, but in a special, mediatorial office as King, He was given “all power and authority in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28.18). He is not only the ruler of His Church, He is also “Head of all things to the church” (Eph. 1.22), the “Governor among the nations” (Ps. 22.28). “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (Ps. 72.8).

Although this testimony is a distinctive today of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, it is a testimony shared throughout the history of the Reformed Church in general by many great and notable divines.

The book found here is a compendium of statements and resources on the subject of the scope and extent of Christ’s mediatorial kingship derived from a wide range of Reformed divines from the 16th to the 21st centuries. It attempts to demonstrate that the historical Reformed witness of the universal scope of Christ’s mediatorial kingship is not unique to the Reformed Presbyterian Church, but rather a hallmark of Reformed theology.

This paper and website are designed to serve as a resource for those interested in delving into the history and theology of this simple statement: Christ is King over all.

R. Andrew Myers

Anti-Christian Sermons and Calvin


I was referred to examine Pastor Shawn Mathis’ blog ‘Did Calvin preach anti-ChristIan sermons?’.


My response is ‘no’ if you truly understand the Gospel. Many in the Reformed Camp and outside of it have a very narrow understanding of the Gospel. I also believe their views truncate and actually misdefine the good news. They do that by making justification the sole issue of the Gospel. But the Gospel of reconciliation to God is so much more. It is also about us being made new creatures in Christ. It is about being regenerate (born again) and having a renewed spirit. It is about our daily sanctification and salvation. The Gospel is about our whole life before God.

I posted the following response in the comment section on Facebook where Pastor Mathis posted the blog. Someoone referenced Warfield saying that the passage concerning the Prodgal Son had no Gospel in it because there was no reference to the atonement.  In general I also am confronted by attacks on self examination and how we should view our obedience by those who truncate the gospel.  They have a few good points but you can’t throw the truth out because some misapply or misunderstand the truth.

My response…
“I will say this, there are different layers of the Gospel. All of our reconciliation to God totally depends on the person and work of Christ. But there are themes of the Gospel message that may be presented without specific acknowledgement of the cross. Repentance from sin and seeking reconciliation is a call to the covenant community. How to live before God and please Him is a part of the Gospel. As Bavinck noted, the Gospel restores the Law to its proper place in the life of the redeemed. The Gospel is more than the teaching of Justification. That is something many don’t understand now days.

Philippians 2:12-13
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

Galatians 6:1-10
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

1 John 3:18-24
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.

2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?

I have another example of the problem presented to us in a gospel that is truncated by being focused solely on justification.

Let’s examine the examples of Abraham’s faith. His faith is referenced two specific times in the New Testament. A lot of people make categorical mistakes when they try reconciling the writings of Paul and James concerning justification by faith. Paul is speaking about Abraham’s response of faith concerning the future promise of his seed. He is declared righteous without works. Genesis 15:1-7 , Romans 4:1-8 James presents a totally different situation as does Genesis 22.

A lot of people in their zeal for the doctrine of justification by faith alone in the Gospel make a categorical error when they present Genesis 22:1-14 in a typological way concerning the person and work of Christ. Abraham and Isaac are not typological of God and Christ here. This passage is about God testing Abraham’s faith. It is not about justification by faith alone.  It is about covenant obedience and blessing. If anything, and I am assuming here, the Lamb provided is typological and indicates that even our obedience needs to be viewed as imperfect and covered as it can only be accepted in Christ. James is presenting Abraham in a totally different context than Paul is in Romans and it is still Gospel.”

I am looking forward to Pastor Shawn Mathis’ follow up blog. He is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.